IT Strategy

How Americans Interact with VR

The buzz surrounding virtual reality (VR) went on overdrive this year and even I contributed to the chatter on the internet. But everything isn’t what it seems as VR still looks like it’s full of hype and not much more.

According to research, only 6% of Americans will own a headset by the end of the year. Further, as much as 93% of the VR headsets are forecasted to be the basic smartphone version. Further, research also found that most people don't understand VR and about half cannot even name a VR headset brand. Yet, most Americans are ready and willing to embrace the technology.

VR is nothing new, it’s been around since the early 1990s without much effect. Fast forward two decades later and the technology has evolved significantly, yet adoption remains low. This is probably because most Americans (in this case, almost 58% who were surveyed) knew about the technology, but couldn’t explain it.

If you break down the ReportLinker survey, here’s what you’ll find:

  • About 67% of those surveyed were between the ages of 55–64 and about a quarter of that number had never heard of VR
  • Only 16% of the respondents were familiar with the technology and could explain it

The research evidenced a marked age gap between those who could explain the technology and those who were familiar with it. Further, there was also a difference between the excitement generated by VR technology and public awareness.

If you dig deeper into the survey, you’ll find that as much as 51% of the respondents couldn’t name even one VR brand. The rest were able to identify the following brands:

  • Samsung (31%)
  • Sony (21%)
  • Oculus Rift (15%)
  • Google (9%)
  • HTC (6%)

VR Hype Can be Good for the Industry

Although we’re all quick to blame the hype that surrounds the industry, it may not be a bad thing after all. This is because people generally display a positive attitude towards the technology (even with a lack of awareness).

Approximately 72% of Americans displayed a positive attitude towards VR (and 81% of the group were comprised of millennials). The 28% who had a negative attitude towards the technology were comprised of 54% of members of the senior citizen bracket.

In What Ways Will They Interact with VR?

Right now, VR headsets are dominated by low-cost headsets like Google Cardboard (93%) which are basically shells that make use of smartphones to work. The more advanced headsets like the PlayStation VR will only account for 6% of the market share. Headsets that plug into PCs like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift will only make up 1% of all VR headset sales this year.

This will create a huge gap when it comes to the quality of interactions because what you experience with a Google Cardboard is miles away from the enhanced experience you can get from an HTC Vive. So most of the VR headset owners in 2016 will only have basic experiences and interactions offered by low-cost headsets. 

This is also reflected in the research that found that the overall rating of the experiences was scored at 6.9 out of 10. Millennials provided an even lower score of 5.6 out of 10. The older generations tended to provide a higher score of 7.6 out of 10.

This is probably linked to the fact that millennials were more tech savvy than their older counterparts. The main attraction here seemed to be the entertainment value it presented. Overall, 23% of respondents wanted to use VR to watch movies while another 47% wanted to use it to play games.

This suggests that more advanced VR headset sales can rise in the coming years as the low-cost alternatives cannot really provide the type of gaming interactions and experiences that are offered by PlayStation VR or Oculus Rift. 

Although ReportLinker’s survey predicts a positive future for the industry, it also clearly evidences the fact that manufacturers and marketers will continue to have an uphill battle to enhance adoption rates. For example, 39% of respondents were dissatisfied because of dizziness while 95% stated that they had never worn a VR headset (55% of which stated that they’re not even interested in testing one).

As a result, those manufacturing headsets at a higher price point need to focus on promoting the interactions and experiences that cannot be provided by low-cost options. They also need to do more to get more people to try out their headsets as that could be key to driving conversions.

But for the near future, most Americans will have basic interaction and experiences with their low-cost VR headsets. So expect to see more 360 degree videos in the coming months to cater to this niche.

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IT Storyteller and Copywriter
Andrew's current undertaking is big data analytics and AI as well as digital design and branding. He is a contributor to various publications with the focus on emerging technology and digital marketing.